Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 8/26/12

The NFC South is arguably one of the tougher divisions in the NFL for 2012.  This division is also one of the toughest to predict.

New Orleans and Atlanta have dominated this division the last several years, but now the Panthers could be back in championship form thanks to their quarterback, Cam Newton, who shattered many rookie quarterback records last year.

Week 2 in the NFL brings the most exciting home game on the Panthers' schedule this year.

Last year, the Saints did a nice job of keeping Newton in check. Of course we aren't sure what the bounty was on Newton's head, but nonetheless, they were able to beat Newton and the Panthers twice last year, most notably, the last game of the season where the Saints put a whoopin' on the Panthers: 45-17.

In that game, Newton only threw for 158 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception and, more importantly, he only rushed for 32 yards and no touchdowns.  If the Panthers want to find their way back to the top of the NFC South, they need to beat the Saints and Newton is going to have to do better against NFC South foes.

The second game of the season for the Panthers is a home game against the Saints, who will be without their Head Coach Sean Payton, who has been suspended for the 2012 season due to his part in the Saints' bounty program.

Does this necessarily have a negative bearing on Drew Brees and the Saints?  Not really, but the fact is the Saints' defense is going to be scrutinized heavily by the officials and watched very closely due to the name they have made for themselves in the NFL.

This could be good news for Cam Newton who will be protected by the officials and hopefully, the Panthers' offensive line.  With the anticipated improvement of Cam Newton and the potential safe play by the New Orleans Saints, I really feel this game is a chance for the Panthers to try and make a name for themselves in 2012.

This game is indeed a statement game for the Panthers and could create a lot of swagger for the team, as a win against the Saints this early in the season could create confidence in this squad to carry them throughout the 2012 season.

Panthers fans and NFL analysts, pay attention to Week 2 and the Panthers, a win against the Saints this week has major implications on so many levels and could help shape the competition in the already tough NFC South.

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